Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sun, sea and scammers: How to avoid holiday cons this summer

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It can sometimes be easy to miss vital warning signs that something could be a scam when caught up in the excitement of booking a holiday.

Sometimes, holidaymakers will only find out they have been defrauded when they are due to travel or arrive at their destination.

And with people often spending months saving their hard-earned cash as they dream about getting away, it can be all the more devastating if that money then ends up in the account of a fraudster.

Victims of holiday fraud lost £1,851 on average last year, with July and August seeing spikes in this type of scam, according to figures from Action Fraud.

Over a third (35%) of travellers aged 18 to 35 say they’ve been scammed on holiday in the past year, according to a new survey for travel debit card Currensea – making this an age group that appears to be particularly at risk.

Common types of holiday fraud include booking a flight or accommodation on scam websites and trips being offered on social media that turn out to be bogus.

Fraudulent social media promotions could include event tickets, package holidays or accounts impersonating airlines or hotels that ask for banking details or additional payments.

Scams may be particularly effective when people are in the “holiday mood” and their guard is down.

ATM skimming, for example, can happen where devices are installed on a cash machine to capture personal details including a user’s Pin and “shoulder surfing” where fraudsters watch a customer enter their Pin and then later steal their card.

People may also be offered tours when they’re on holiday that don’t exist.

Watch out for holiday scams this summer (Alamy/PA)
Watch out for holiday scams this summer (Alamy/PA)

Many people appear to be taking precautions though. Concerns over scams have led to more than three-quarters (78%) of travellers to taking extra safety precautions when spending on holiday, the survey found.

Over two-fifths (43%) of holidaymakers say they avoid bank transfers in favour of card payments for increased protection, according to the Opinium survey of 2,000 people across the UK in March.

Paying by credit or debit card or by PayPal, for example, can give an added layer of protection if something goes wrong.

People who have paid by card for services or goods that don’t materialise can try contacting their provider to make a chargeback claim.

Credit card users may be able to make a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. The goods or service must have cost over £100, but you don’t need to have put more than £100 or the full amount you paid on your credit card. If the item or service was less than £100, all is not lost however, as you may still be able to make a chargeback claim.

The survey also found that over two-fifths (43%) of holidaymakers say they are now more vigilant about safety when carrying cash, while 28% exercise caution when withdrawing cash abroad.

James Lynn, co-founder of Currensea, says: “Travellers need to ensure they’re taking more safety precautions when abroad by remaining vigilant with offers that seem too good to be true, minimise the amount of cash they carry and opting for secure spending options that are much lower risk than a wallet full of notes.”

To help people stay safe, Lynn suggests that when booking accommodation on platforms, be wary if the host or owner asks to communicate via phone or email rather than through messages over the platform, particularly if they are asking for direct payment.

Scammers have been tricking holidaymakers into handing over their passport details
Scammers have been tricking holidaymakers into handing over their passport details (PA Archive)

If you do take significant sums of cash with you while you’re abroad, Lynn suggests splitting the money between wallets and secured spaces such as a safe.

This also goes for your plastic cards – so that if your wallet does become lost or stolen, you still have some forms of payment available.

Lynn says: “If something goes wrong you don’t want to lose all access to money. Consider options to pay via your phone too, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.”

Also, be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing cash from ATMs.

“Shoulder surfing” is a common tactic where fraudsters watch a customer enter their Pin and then later steal their card.

When booking a holiday, make sure you understand what protection you might have if something goes wrong.

Check whether the company involved is a member of trade association ABTA. Holidaymakers taking flights and package deals should check coverage under the ATOL financial protection scheme.

And be mindful too that fraudsters can copy logos of legitimate organisations to make their websites appear more realistic. If you are having doubts about an organisation, you could, for example, search ABTA’s own website for its members.

Be careful when giving out your personal information, and think about only filling in the mandatory details on a website when making a purchase. Also be wary if the price looks too good to be true.

You could also try performing an image search online, as scammers may copy photos of dream destinations from elsewhere.

It’s also worth checking the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for the destination you’re travelling to.

If you think you might have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud. People living in Scotland should call Police Scotland on 101.

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